A beloved musical tradition returns to help Christians observe the season of Lent.
Held at noon on Thursdays during Lent, the Lenten Recital Series has long been an opportunity for the quiet reflection and even artistic beauty that many worshippers need during this time of the year. The first concert of the series will be Feb. 22 at noon at First Congregational Church.
Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14 this year), is the 40-day period of repentance, self-denial, prayer and works of charity leading up to Easter. Observance of Lent differs among Christian denominations, but most churches, including those in the Bakersfield area, offer events in addition to regular services to foster that quiet time.
The recital series was the decades-long contribution to that quiet time — a weekly concert of music for the organ — at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 17th and B streets, but fell victim to the 2006 schism in the Episcopal Church and the ensuing property lawsuit that forced the now-Anglican community to find a new home. The series was suspended for a couple of years until Elizabeth Cervantes, the collaborative musician and organist at First Congregational Church, suggested to FCC to give the series a try.
“The church was very open to having it here,” Cervantes said.
Already well-known for the Dukes Memorial Concert Series and other performances, First Congregational Church proved last year that the church could host another series.
“When we did this last year, we opened it up to not just organ solos but to other groups as well — to freshen it up,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes said last year’s series went so well, the church was happy to continue hosting it, including the tradition of allowing guests to bring or purchase lunches to eat during the 30-minute concert.
Cervantes said this year’s series begins on Feb. 22 with a recital by Carolyn Hill, organist from St. Luke’s Anglican Church. Hill will perform selections from the “traditional” organ repertoire, and will also perform a special piece, “Rex: The King of Instruments,” a narrated work describing the history of that instrument. Skip Hill is the narrator.
Cervantes recruited musicians representing several area churches and also added some new ideas to this year’s lineup:
March 1: Brass a la Carte. The brass quartet of Michael Raney and Hunter Raney on trumpets, Dennis Herbst and Fred Chenoweth on trombone, will perform with Trinity Anglican organist Sue Wagner.
March 8: Organist Eric Holderman, from First United Methodist Church, will perform works by J.S. Bach and Handel, along with settings of such traditional hymns as “All Creatures of Our God and King,” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
March 15: Organist Meg Wise and a group of instrumentalists representing First Presbyterian Church will perform.
March 22: A recital by CSUB piano students of Dr. Soo-Yeon Park.
Cervantes said each group chooses its own repertoire.
“They are supposed to be inspiring in terms of being seasonal music,” Cervantes said. “It just depends on each individual.”
Kudos to Cervantes and First Congregational Church for reviving — and preserving — this series.